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Hi, for those who quilt for others - I am renting one of my machines to people who want to learn how to use my IntelliQuilter and quilt their tops themselves.  I spent a wretched 10 hours with a customer whose quilt was totally unsquared and wavy.  It's not all her fault, because it was one of her first quiltsand she said when I asked her that she wasn't taught to square up her quilts or how to measure borders.  We got it quilted but it didn't look very good after several tucks in the border and extra batting stuffed in to take up the fullness.  I'm embarrassed for anyone to know that she quilted it here.  She is a very nice person but she told me she had several more at home she wanted to do (eeek!)  I did tell her she needed to look at them and try to fix them before she brought any more in.  My question is, what tactful way have you all told customers not to bring you those kind of quilts?  Do you ever cut anyone off because the trouble isn't worth the money?  Also, is there any other way besides looking for wavy borders that will alert you a quilt is unsuited for longarming?  I've checked borders but sometimes that has fooled me - I had one that looked totally wavy but quilted out just fine.  For a final rant, I wish people who taught quilting classes would not just tell people how to put a top together but would take a few moments to show them how to piece, square up, and measure borders!!!!  Every quilter should take technique classes!

Thanks for listening!

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If this was a machine rental and you weren't the one who actually did the quilting, I don't see how it would reflect badly on you.  She just quilted it on your machine.  If you're in the business of renting out your machine, then it doesn't make sense to fire a customer for his/her work product.  On the hand, a little guidance from you may go a long way in building goodwill with this customer.  Would you rather have her brag to her friends how your help made her quilts turn out better or complain to her friends about how you won't let her rent your machine?  

I don't have a quilting business, but I'm in several facebook groups where there are many who do.  I see lots of posts about those who quilt on less than ideally pieced tops.  Most of the time the customers are thrilled with the finished product despite the fixes the quilter had to do.  

 

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SueD is correct.  You didn't quilt her quilt, she rented your machine and did it herself and that is what she will tell her friends and family...she did it ALL.  This in no way reflects badly on you.  Quite the opposite, she will tell them how much you helped her.  For being in business of quilting for others, you need to take the bad tops with the good tops.  You start picking and choosing what tops you will quilt and what you won't you WILL get a very bad reputation!  

I do agree that quilt instructors need to properly teach finish techniques, which most do not.  I quilt for others and will 'fix' a wavy border on the first quilt. I do tell the owner the problems with the quilt and instruct on how to correct that in the future.  Should I get more quilts from this person with the same problems, then I charge more money and tell them why the cost went up. It doesn't take too many of the increase in fees for them to do their quilts properly!!   I have Never refused to quilt for a person because their quilt wasn't up to my person standards! 

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Now she knows that she needs to piece better and you know what to look for. I agree it's all her work and not yours so don't be concerned it will mar your reputation. Don't help her and don't hover unless you're concerned about her damaging your machine. If she asks for advice, be generous, but you aren't hired to give piecing lessons. Nor are you hired to give her quilting lessons, I suppose---just to show the mechanics and stand back. One of two things will happen if she continues to be a customer---she'll improve her piecing and have nice flat quilts, or she won't improve and become discouraged because her quilts have so many flaws (and probably stop coming). I'm betting on the former! Who isn't entranced by a nicely quilted quilt that one makes from start to finish? You may eventually lose her anyway when/if she decides to buy her own longarm!

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12 hours ago, kbaumbusch said:

.....is there any other way besides looking for wavy borders that will alert you a quilt is unsuited for longarming?  I've checked borders but sometimes that has fooled me - I had one that looked totally wavy but quilted out just fine.  For a final rant, I wish people who taught quilting classes would not just tell people how to put a top together but would take a few moments to show them how to piece, square up, and measure borders!!!!  Every quilter should take technique classes!

I don't rent my machine out for people to quilt on, but I have provided longarm quilting for customers since 2007, so I've experienced every level of quilt under the sun: from very beginner not knowing what a 1/4" seam allowance is, to advanced quilter whose quilts were immaculately spectacular. So, here's my perspective on it all:  Bottom line: it's just a quilt that will be loved and cuddled under, and 99.999% of the time the customer is thrilled because it's quilted. It might not be perfect, but it will be loved. So, I don't try to fret too much. The friendly ones can be challenging and wonky, but I don't spend lots of time trying to fix a friendly border. It's going to lay on a bed or on a couch. I've quilted many quilts with dog-ears in the corners and friendly borders. Never a customer complaint. I just manipulate the quilt top to get it to lay as flat as possible. One thing that drives me batty is when a seam is open, and my hopping foot quilts itself into a hole and it's a major PITA to get that unstuck without damaging the fabric. So, I hold the top up towards the light and look through to see if there are any open seams and fix those. For the new customers who are learning, I always always spoke to them in a way that I would have wanted to be spoke to if I were in their shoes. I was never snotty or condescending. I encouraged them, gave them some simple tips to do for improving, and explained the basics when it was necessary. Always took my advice to heart and did better next time. Another piece of advice I can give you for those double D and couble C quilt tops is to starch and steam them really good before putting them on the quilt frame. The starch and steam will tighten up the fibers, make the top a little stiffer so you can manage the wonkiness a little better. Definitely charge for that service, or ask your customer to do this starch and steam before brining it to you. Quilters are just like you and me. We are all loving this hobby, so I never discouraged, always tried to help and encourage. In all of the years I have quilted for customers, I never used the word "no" or turned a customer away, except for one lady who I did not know who handed me her wadded up quilt top (seriously) and it looked like a dog had laid on top of it for three weeks. I handed it back and asked her to please remove the dog hair. She was actually mad at me (embarrassed?) and I never saw her again. OK bye. LOL. 

Best 

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I wanted to add one more thing regarding your original heading of cutting off a customer. So here is the thing and don't ever forget it: You are providing a service. You as the business owner reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. This is your machine and your time is valuable. What you need to do is establish some "guestimated hours" to complete specific sizes of quilts. 

For example:

  • A crib size baby quilt might take an hour.
    • Set a general ballpark cost price range for quilting a baby quilt within a reasonable timeframe. Quote the customer that in general, this quilt will cost X dollars, but this is an estimate. Have something written in there that if it takes more than (reasonable time) to complete quilting, an additional fee of, X dollars per 30 minutes will be added until it's completed. 
  • A lap size quilt might take two hours.  Ditto above. 
  • A queen size quilt might take three-four hours. Ditto on the general price range.
  • Same with king size quilt. 

When you set those general price ranges and estimated times for completion, to include the additional charge (for those problem quilts). If you have a customer that is requiring you to spend a lot of time fussing on a quilt because it's wonky or your having to take pleats and be creative in just getting the quilt to lay flat, you need to charge for that time. 

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